How To Talk Like A “Giver” And Make People Like You

Thanks to people like Brene Brown and Oprah, vulnerability seems to be on the lips of everyone from CEOs to yoga instructors. This is probably a good thing, assuming it's authentic. People's BS detectors go off pretty quickly when it's not.

Unfortunately, we live in a culture where vulnerability and giving are often seen as weakness. 

Here's how you can use it to strengthen your business in a way that's authentic to you.

Naturally, when something catches on - for whatever reason - people try to figure out how to make money from it. So now we've got major corporations bearing their "soul" in commercials and on Twitter. 

I'm not cynical enough to think it's all fake or inauthentic, but there seems to be a lot of it going around lately. 

Here's the thing: you don’t need to expose your deepest secrets on social media to get people to like you.

Turns out, there’s one simple way we make ourselves vulnerable to others and you probably don’t even know you’re doing it. Strangely enough, it makes people like us more. 

Are you a Giver, Taker, or Matcher?

Adam Grant, the single highest rated professor ever at the Wharton School, has dedicated his life to researching what makes people successful.

He breaks them into three camps: Givers, Takers, Matchers[1].

Turns out most of us are matchers. We think that when we do something for someone, at some point, that other person should return the favor.  We like to think of this as fairness. 

Takers, well. They take.  And we hate them because it feels unfair.

But the most interesting part of the research is about the Givers.

It turns out that they end up on both ends of the success spectrum. Some of the most successful AND least successful people are givers. They’re willing to help others, sometimes to the detriment of themselves.  

So, what does this have to do with making people like me, you ask.

Well it’s simple. It’s all comes down to the way you (and Givers) talk to others.

Using Tentative Talk

Grant, in his book Give and Take, talks about research conducted by Alison Fragale, a professor at the University of North Carolina.

Fragale found that our speech patterns give others subconscious signals about whether they're givers or takers.

Givers use tentative speech markers like, “well, um, and you know.” Or they make disclaimers before sharing ideas. Like, “this might be a bad idea, but…” They also question their own ideas with statements like, “that’s interesting, isn’t it?" or "what do you think about that?"

But this is weakness right? Hemming and hawing. Giving up ground. 

How can talking like you're unsure help you win people over?

By using tentative speech, you signal to others that you’re willing to defer to them or consider their opinion without saying it outright. Your tentative speech helps them view you as someone who’s helpful and willing to share ideas. Not someone who’s trying to take control or power.

Takers step on toes to get what they want. They're aggressive with their speech because they think it gives them a leg up on the competition. They're usually the ones ordering people around, so we're less likely to listen to them.

Making suggestions and asking questions are much more effective ways to get others to collaborate. Givers contribute to the group with a desire to help everyone involved. Fragale found that people were much more receptive to this strategy.

In the long run, this is good for Givers. We have a tendency to work with these people more often or give them credit down the road. Looking for ways to create repeat customers? Be a Giver.

Will a taker take advantage? Maybe. But like I said earlier, people are pretty quick to detect BS.

Putting Your Vulnerability to Good Use

Next time you’re meeting with your team or a client, make a point to share an idea with them. Don't shy away from tentative statements that come naturally to you.

Say something like, “I’m not sure if you’d be interested in something like this, but…” or "I have this idea, but I'm not sure about..."

See how it goes. Then come back here and leave a comment to tell me about it.

[1] Grant, A. (2013). Give and take: A revolutionary approach to success. New York, N.Y.: Viking.